Charging consumers for sewerage improvement works is “the only sustainable way” of providing funding, Water UK has said.
The trade body apologised on behalf of English water companies on Thursday for sewage discharged into rivers and coastal areas.
It said investors will front £10 billion to pay for improvements to storm overflows, aiming to cut the number of spills by up to 140,000 each year by 2030, compared with the level in 2020.
But customers will eventually repay all of that money with gradual rises in their bills, Water UK said.
Ruth Kelly, chairwoman of Water UK, told BBC Breakfast on Thursday that it could take between 50-100 years for the investment to be repaid.
A spokesman said: “Investors will put up the money, with the costs then paid back in modest increments each year through bills.
“This keeps costs down and protects customers against paying the billions needed up front.
“We won’t know the precise impact on bills for some time. It is clear that huge investment is needed, and the only sustainable way of funding that is bills, but precise levels are for the regulator to determine.”
Figures compiled by The Financial Times show that dividends dished out by polluting water companies hit £1.4 billion in the year to the end of March 2022.
Analysis of the ten largest water and sewage companies’ accounts shows there have been eye-watering handouts to shareholders in recent years.
Complicated layered corporate structures allow firms to duck Ofwat regulations, meaning there is less money available for investment in critical infrastructure such as sewage treatment and water mains.
Perhaps they could find some money there?
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